He is best known for his Nigrescence Model, first detailed in a 1971 publication, and his book, Shades of Black, published in 1991. Cross’ Nigrescence Model expanded upon the work of other Black psychologists that came before him, and created an important foundation for racial/ethnic identity psychology.
In 2008, Cross was awarded emeritus status at CUNY, and he continues to serve on dissertation committees in social-personality and developmental psychology for doctoral students at the Graduate Center there.
Throughout his career, Cross was largely concerned with racial/ethnic identity theory and the negative effects of Western thought and science on the psychology of Black Americans, and specifically the need for “psychological liberation under conditions of oppression.” Here, he met Badi Foster, who would later become his best man and lifelong friend and mentor.
While at DU, Cross seriously questioned his religious beliefs and eventually denounced God because he couldn’t explain slavery or the Holocaust.
He also currently serves as the President Elect of the Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues).
In this role, Cross leads the American Psychological Association group to “encourage research on ethnic minority issues and [apply] psychological knowledge to ethnic minority issues”.